Ganesh Prasad: Open Source-onomics: Examining some pseudo-economic arguments about Open Source
Apr 12, 2001, 16:00 (90 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ganesh Prasad)
Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame
By Ganesh Prasad
While the technical arguments against Linux and Open Source are
being gradually silenced, several unrefuted myths about the
economics of Open Source continue to float about, confusing and
scaring off people considering these alternative products. Worse,
the Open Source community is itself divided on such issues, and is
unable to provide a cogent rebuttal. This article is an attempt to
set the record straight.
- "The poor performance of Linux stocks proves that Linux is a
- "Open Source is not economically viable"
- "Not paying for software will ultimately kill the
- "Why will programmers continue to contribute code if they can't
make money from it?"
- "Even Open Source development involves effort, so there has to
be payment for that effort"
- "Are Open Source programmers writing themselves out of their
- "But free isn't natural. There's no such thing as a free
- "Is software a commodity?"
- "Who will invest in software development if it doesn't yield a
- "Open Source may have a niche, but proprietary commercial
products will continue to rule"
- "Customers will never trust something that is free"
- "Open Source may release value, but it doesn't create
- God, Government, Market and Community
- About the Author
"The poor performance of Linux stocks proves that Linux is a
What's the relationship between the performance of Linux stocks
and Linux's own prospects of success? When stocks of companies like
Red Hat and VA Linux Systems skyrocketed in the wake of their IPOs,
that was taken as an indication that Linux had arrived, and Linux
advocates said nothing to counter the impression. Indeed, many
gleefully used the stockmarket to show their peers that Linux was
to be taken seriously. So now that the same stocks are trading far
below those prices, doesn't it indicate that the Linux shine has
worn off? Look at the number of Linux companies in the doldrums,
that have laid off employees or closed down. That certainly seems
to indicate the end of Linux. It was a great idea that failed to
deliver on its promises, and we should now go back to software and
companies that are more firmly grounded in economic realities,
Well, first of all, Linux is quite independent of Linux
companies in a way that the market has never seen before. Windows
means Microsoft, Netware means Novell, OS/390 means IBM. The
fortunes of operating system and company are usually heavily
intertwined. That's simply not the case with Linux. If Novell
closes down, that pretty much means the end of Netware, unless
another company sees fit to buy the product and keep it alive (On
the other hand, Microsoft may simply choose to buy Netware and kill
it!). Such things can't happen to Linux. As an Open Source
operating system, Linux is teflon-coated against the commercial
failures of the companies that try to build business models around
it. Commercial entities are Johnnies-come-lately to Linux anyway.
Linux managed without them for years, and will continue to exist
even if they should all disappear.
In fact, companies that claim to support Linux are wrong --
Linux supports them!
"Open Source is not economically viable"
OK, so Linux as a technical product may continue to exist, but
if companies cannot make money from it (as is seemingly evidenced
by the woes of the Linux companies today), then it's another great
technical success that is a commercial failure. History is littered
with such examples. Linux will never go anywhere unless people can
make money off it.
Now here's an argument even Open Source sympathisers have
trouble with, -- the assumption that money must be made for Open
Source to succeed. However, the argument is incomplete because it
chooses to concentrate on the supply side alone, without regard to
the demand side.
While it may well be true that no one can make money from Open
Source, that should only serve to discourage suppliers of
software. On the demand side, however, consumers are
saving tons of money by using Open Source. Since a penny saved is a
penny earned, there is a strong economic basis for the success of
Open Source after all. Someone is saving money, and they will fight
to keep those savings.
The demand side is the one that should drag the rest of the
market, kicking and screaming, to a regime of drastically lower
prices. Vendors will see their margins shrink, many will close
down, newer, leaner ones will spring up, vendors in other market
segments will provide software, and eventually, the market will
adjust itself to the new reality. Dollar volumes will go down even
as unit volumes go up. The transition could be quite painful for
suppliers of software, but no law of economics says it cannot
happen. It is not a law of nature that vendors must continue to
make the revenues and profits they are used to.
"Not paying for software will ultimately kill the
There are the long-term worriers who don't like this scenario at
all, even as they accept that it may happen. Yes, they say,
customers will save money in the short term, but they're eating
their seed corn. Customers need financially healthy vendors to be
around to support them and continually improve their offerings. A
herd of gnu may be happy at the disappearance of the local lion
population, but the herd needs predators to cull its ranks of the
weak and the sick, and to keep its gene pool healthy. Saving money
by starving your suppliers is not in your own long-term
This is a strange suggestion from people who probably describe
themselves as market capitalists. When customers make a purchase,
should they think about their own savings or should they worry
about the supplier or the economy? Is it reasonable to ask them to
choose costlier products because that will ultimately and
indirectly serve their own interests? The argument smacks more of
Marx than Adam Smith, -- The State above the individual.
This was the convenient argument of horse-buggy manufacturers
when the locomotive arrived, and of the railroad companies when the
aeroplane appeared. We've seen this dozens of times in our history.
A generation of suppliers is threatened, and they try to convince
the rest that society as a whole is threatened. If history is any
guide, consumers will make the decisions that suit their immediate
interests, and vendors will have no choice but to adapt as best as
they can. Those decisions may decimate them, but civilisation will
survive, as it always has. L'Etat, c'est moi.
"Why will programmers continue to contribute code if they can't
make money from it?"
Right. Given a choice between a free software product and a
competitor with a price tag, it is understandable if customers
choose the free one. But why should anyone write it for free in the
first place? What would they gain?
The assumption behind this question is that there are only three
types of transactions between parties: win-win, win-lose and
lose-lose (Lose-lose transactions should never occur under
conditions of rational decision-making). Win-lose transactions
occur when the winning party is stronger than the other and can
force a transaction through. All other transactions are willingly
entered into by two parties and are win-win.
In the case of Open Source, the recipients of the software are
obviously winners, but the writers of the software don't seem to be
winning anything because the recipients don't have to pay them for
it. Therefore, our assumption tells us that this not a win-win
situation, and that there is no economic incentive for a programmer
to write Open Source software.
For the moment, let us go along with the assumption that the
only motivation for writing software is economic (which is not
true). Even with such an assumption, the reasoning is flawed
because there are other types of transactions which are not so
obvious and which have not been considered: win-neutral,
lose-neutral and neutral-neutral.
Under conditions of rational decision-making, lose-neutral and
neutral-neutral transactions have no incentive to occur, but
win-neutral transactions can and do occur quite frequently.
Everyday examples include someone asking for directions, or asking
for change. Here, the person asking certainly gains something from
the transaction, but the other party neither gains nor loses from
it. Therefore, the transaction can still take place.
Most Open Source programmers would probably not write software
and give it away if it cost them something to do so. However, they
don't perceive the effort of writing it to be a cost. Most of them
write software to solve a specific problem that they happen to be
facing, or to "scratch their personal itch", as Eric Raymond
points out. The process of developing such software is actually
quite pleasurable and energising to most good programmers. Once the
software has been written, giving away copies of it does not
deprive the programmer of the ability to continue to use it, and it
costs them nothing extra to do so. It is a win-neutral transaction,
and therefore there is no economic reason to prevent it from taking
(Economics purists would point out that there is indeed a cost
to giving away the software -- the opportunity cost of not
selling the software instead. However, for many programmers, the
process of selling their software is more trouble than it is worth,
so the effective opportunity cost is actually zero, and it
is a win-neutral situation after all.)
If that was not sufficient reason, Open Source programmers also
tend to work with others who share their interest and contribute
code. They enjoy a multiplier effect from such cooperation.
Metaphorically speaking, each programmer contributes a brick and
each gets back a complete house in return. In software,
unlike with physical goods, one person's gain does not come at the
expense of another because a copy does not deplete the original in
any way. Sharing software is not a zero-sum game, and there are
tremendous efficiencies from participating in such a cooperative
No, the absence of direct monetary reward does not really
constitute a disincentive to writing Open Source software.
"Even Open Source development involves effort, so there has to
be payment for that effort"
OK, Open Source programmers lose nothing by giving away the
software that they have already written (and they may even gain in
non-monetary terms). But some effort has gone into their
products. Shouldn't such effort be compensated in cash as well?
Programmers have families to support, and they need to put bread on
the table. They can't live on software and satisfaction alone. To
be viable in the long term, Open Source needs to evolve a mechanism
to support its contributors financially. Without remuneration, over
time, most of these volunteer programmers will simply wander away
in search of food.
This argument appeals to equity as well as economic commonsense,
and finds sympathisers even in the Open Source community.
Certainly, we would all like to see programmers being compensated
for their contributions. There are several business models that are
being attempted. The SourceForge and Collab.Net method of raising
contributions from users to pay developers is an innovative one,
but its success is as yet unproven. Programmers could also try and
make money by supporting their creations, maybe selling copies of
it as well, providing consultancy and professional services, etc.
But we still don't know of a foolproof business model for this sort
of thing. There may not even be one. In the absence of a good
system coming along pretty soon, Open Source will perhaps continue
to be written by volunteer programmers who have day jobs writing
commercial software. It could also expect contributions from
hardware or services companies with a stake in its success.
But even in this worst case, does it mean that Open Source will
stop being written? As long as Open Source programmers have
alternative sources of income (i.e. day jobs), they lose nothing by
working on Open Source projects in their spare time (a win-neutral
transaction). With the increasing number of people being exposed to
Open Source, the pool of contributors is in fact growing larger by
"Are Open Source programmers writing themselves out of their
But that leads to what may seem the ultimate argument against
the economics of Open Source: How long can programmers work day
jobs at commercial software companies and write software at night
that puts those same companies out of business? Writing Open Source
software is not just irrational, it is positively suicidal. 'Tis an
ill bird that fouls its own nest, not to mention an extremely
Indeed, this appears to be a very powerful argument. However,
Eric Raymond comes to our rescue with this
statistical nugget: Only 5% of all programmers are actually
engaged in writing "for sale" commercial software. The other 95%
actually write and maintain custom-built software for in-house use.
Open Source doesn't threaten custom-built software at all. It only
competes with packaged software that is sold as a product. And so,
in the worst case, Open Source programmers are only going to put 5%
of their own kind out of work. That's an acceptable level of
collateral damage, as the generals might say.
"But free isn't natural. There's no such thing as a free
But this entire idea is crazy, somewhat like producing something
out of nothing! How can one seriously expect an entire economy to
be based on something that is absolutely free? Doesn't it violate
some fundamental economic law, just as producing something out of
nothing violates the Law of Conservation of Mass in physics?
Let's examine whether it does.
We realise it is not possible for any supplier to charge less
for a product than it cost them to produce it. That would mean a
loss. At the same time, if all products in a category are roughly
alike in function, and there are plenty of suppliers for those
products, it is not possible for any of them to charge
significantly more than their competitors without pricing
themselves out of the market. So they should all end up charging
just slightly more than it cost them to make the product, making
only modest profits in the process. The underlying assumption here,
though, is that we have "pure competition".
"Pure competition" in economics means a buyers' market.
Consumers love it and suppliers hate it (though, curiously, all
suppliers claim to welcome it). A competitive market means that
consumers can easily find any number of alternative suppliers for a
product. It also means the product is a commodity.
A "commodity" product means that there is very little
differentiation between the various versions of a product. They all
do the same thing, with only minor, insignificant differences.
Consumers don't bother about brands when buying commodities.
Suppliers hate commoditisation for the same reason and try their
best to create artificial differentiation. (The best example is the
Vodka Paradox: Vodka, by definition, is a colourless, odourless and
flavourless drink of a specific composition, so all vodkas should
be the same! But we know of both premium and downmarket brands of
vodka, so at least some of them are, by definition, not vodka at
Look at the software market from these angles. Is it
competitive? Is it a commodity market? Think about whether it would
be easy for you to replace Windows on your PC with another
operating system. Think about whether such a system would work the
same way. Such an analysis may suggest that this is neither a
competitive nor a commodity market. However, these aren't very
straightforward questions to answer because some recent
developments have impacted the market a great deal, but we'll come
back to them a bit later.
The important point to note is, if the software market becomes a
competitive commodity market, the price of software should be close
to the cost of producing it. That's what economic commonsense says
"Is software a commodity?"
But why would the software market suddenly turn competitive and
into a commodity market? The answers are standards, the Internet,
and Open Source software itself.
The correct way to build an application using 1990s thinking is
to grab a copy of Visual Basic or PowerBuilder, develop a Windows
executable and install it on every user's PC. The larger the number
of PCs to install the software on, the more you walk around. When
you need to upgrade the software, you put on your sneakers again
and take another walk.
Now fast-forward to today. The correct way to build an
application using millennial thinking is to put the application on
a website and get users to point their browsers at it. When you
need to upgrade the software, you modify it once on the server and
your users hit the Refresh button on their browsers.
Web technology, if you stop to think about it, is a
predominantly server-side technology. True, there's the Java
since the browser wars, when you couldn't be sure which browser
would break your code, developers have been wary of coding a lot of
side. All that the user needs is a lowly browser.
At one stroke, the web has commoditised the server, because all
a server needs to do is talk some standard "protocols". If it knows
HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), it can talk to a browser. If it
spits out some HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the browser can
actually render it for the user to read. Whither brand? Neither the
browser nor the user sees the brand of the server software. The
same goes for other Internet standards such as SMTP (Simple Mail
Transfer Protocol) and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access
Protocol). They have completely commoditised the servers that
implement them. Suddenly, standards are king, and anyone can
The favourite vendor tactic, -- differentiation, -- doesn't work
very well in this situation. Differentiation breaks standards.
More is less. A product that fails to comply with a
standard is automatically incapable of surviving in the Internet
ecosystem. Any superfluous features it boasts simply wither away
through disuse. It's a self-perpetuating discipline. Internet
protocols and standards rule with an iron fist. So it looks as if
commoditisation is here to stay, however much vendors may hate
What's more, every such standard and protocol is faithfully
implemented in at least one Open Source product. That keeps
commercial implementers honest, too. No oligopoly is possible in
the Internet-era software market, because any Open Source
implementation pre-emptively breaks the cartel! (As an example, the
nascent oligopoly among web application server vendors is coming
under severe pressure from the Open Source JBoss and Enhydra.
Expect to see prices tumble in this market).
And so, here we are, in a competitive and commodity market after
all. We know that in such a market, the price of software will be
close to the cost of producing it. So if we can show that the cost
of producing software is zero, then the price tag of zero is
"Who will invest in software development if it doesn't yield a
It sounds a preposterous argument on the face of it. How can the
cost of software ever be zero? Doesn't it take significant effort
to develop software? Even Open Source software is not miraculously
produced. Programmers spend many man-months of effort on it. So how
can the price of software ever be zero?
Selling below cost is considered predatory pricing in many
countries. In international trade, it's called "dumping". Is Open
Source guilty of "dumping" or predatory pricing? If unchecked, this
could destroy the commercial software industry. Who will invest in
developing software if they cannot recoup their development
The answer to this question may be surprising, because it
overturns many of our fundamental assumptions about the way the
world is run.
Let's start by observing that if Linux had been developed by a
commercial organisation, it could never have been free. Commercial
organisations, whether funded by debt or by equity, need to show a
return on their investment. They cannot waste that investment by
giving away their products. Therefore, even if it costs nothing to
create additional copies of software (what's called the
"marginal cost" of software), the initial costs of development must
be spread over many copies, they must be priced in such a way that
those costs can be recouped, and a positive return must be shown on
the initial investment.
Of course, for this to work, software must be shoehorned
into the mould of a physical product. Copying of software by
anyone other than the producer must be made a crime. The infinite
replicability inherent in software must be artificially curtailed
through legislation. Only then can the model work. This is
precisely what we have with commercial software today. It is
important to understand that the commercial model works by imposing
a system of artificial scarcity. It is physically possible and
economically feasible to produce as many copies of software as the
world needs, but that is however, legally punishable. That means
that many people who need software but cannot pay the asking price
must go without it. That is the only possible (legal) outcome.
There are people who need a software product, and the product can
be replicated at little cost, yet the transaction cannot take
place. From society's viewpoint, this inefficiency is the price it
pays for choosing a commercial vehicle for software
But now, consider an alternative to the investment model. If the
cost of software development can somehow be treated as an expense,
and simply written off, then the software is freed from
the requirement to show a return on investment. There will be no
need to artificially constrain its natural replicability. The world
can have as many copies of it as it needs. There will be no need
for restrictive legislation. From society's point of view, what
could be more efficient?
Large expenses, however, cannot readily be written off. They
need to be "amortised" over a sufficiently large number of units.
This is where another property of software becomes invaluable.
Software can quite practicably be developed by hundreds, even
thousands of programmers. Other intellectual works, such as books,
music or movies, while sharing software's trait of infinite
replicability, cannot be produced by a cast of thousands. Of all
the works of mankind, physical and intellectual, software stands
alone in its twin characteristics of infinite replicability and
amortisability of effort.
Looked at this way, Open Source seems the more natural and
efficient way to build software. Get a large number of interested
developers to work on a piece of software. Most of them spend less
than a couple of hours a day on it, so they don't mind "writing
off" the effort in terms of expecting a monetary return. That is
why Open Source operating systems and associated software are free
for every man, woman and child on earth to copy. By keeping
important software like Linux out of the ambit of commercial
interests, society has benefitted handsomely.
Software, like wealth itself, is potentially limitless.
Capitalism correctly views wealth as potentially infinite, and
fuels global growth to increase the overall size of the economic
pie. However, the current structure of the commercial software
market is not capitalistic at all, but mercantile. It sees
software as a limited good that needs to be hoarded and released
sparingly. It is therefore incapable of being an engine of
Lest our current "capitalistic" mileu should give anyone the
wrong idea, it must be noted as a matter of sociological interest
that commercial organisations do not have a divine right to exist.
They exist at society's pleasure, because they have hitherto been
the most efficient known means of producing quality goods
and services at reasonable prices. However, it appears that the
investment model that underlies all commercial activity is a
grossly inefficient vehicle to deliver to society the levels of
software that it needs.
So here's a really subversive thought: Perhaps corporations
shouldn't develop software at all! Just as free market advocates
call for governments to get out of the business of running
industries, perhaps we should call for corporations to get out of
the business of writing software. They are applying the wrong
economic model to software, and it is proving too costly and
inefficient for society to bear. We need a model that takes a
capitalistic view of software, not a mercantile one.
What we see today with the gradual success of Open Source is
perhaps society's "invisible hand" turning over software
development to the more efficient (from its viewpoint) Open Source
vehicle, and gradually relegating commercial software to the
fringes of economic activity. Adam Smith would have approved.
(Along the way, notice that we have also shown how the cost of
software can be effectively reduced to zero, thereby justifying its
"Open Source may have a niche, but proprietary commercial
products will continue to rule"
We may have shown that Open Source is viable and will most
likely continue to survive, maybe even thrive. But isn't it too
much to suggest that proprietary, commercial software will go the
way of the dodo? Is this really a commodity market? Aren't most
leading commercial software products ahead of their Open Source
equivalents, anyway? How can Open Source hope to beat commercial
software in features? For example, can the Open Source database
package PostgreSQL ever hope to match Oracle? Customers won't use
inferior products just because they're free! They'd prefer to pay
for better products.
This situation is similar to the story of the two men who come
upon a tiger in the jungle. One of them starts putting on his
running shoes. "Are you crazy?" whispers the other, "You can't hope
to outrun a tiger!" "I don't have to outrun the tiger," explains
the first, "I only have to outrun you!"
Open Source products don't have to become better than their
commercial equivalents. They just have to become good enough to
meet user requirements. Why would users pay for features they don't
need? Do you really need a webserver inside your database? A Java
Virtual Machine, perhaps? Or a whole host of features you're never
going to use? No? Then why pay for Oracle 9i? PostgreSQL lets you
create tables, fill them with data, fire SQL queries at them, and
gives you reasonable performance. Isn't that good enough for you,
and for 90% of the market? So PostgreSQL didn't have to outrun the
tiger, did it?
Notice that this is an economic argument. It is not a
technological argument along the lines of "Open Source products
evolve faster and fix bugs quicker, so they'll get better than
their commercial rivals one day". Actually, we couldn't care less.
At a certain point in time, commercial vendors may be reduced to
selling differentiated features that 90% of the market doesn't
need, while the most commonly-required features will be available
to all, free of charge. Those common features will conform to
standards, while proprietary, differentiating features will remain
exactly that, -- proprietary and non-standard.
It is such commoditisation of the market that could slaughter
proprietary commercial software, driving it into niches and
ensuring that the mainstream goes Open Source.
"Customers will never trust something that is free"
All of this sounds pretty convincing in theory, but Open Source
should have been growing like gangbusters if all of this is true.
But we see very gradual adoption of Open Source in the market. Is
it perhaps because people will never respect and trust something
that is free...?
In economics, we have two concepts, -- competing products and
substitutes. Competing products are other brands in the same
category. Substitutes are products in another category that perform
much the same function. If I don't like Nescafe, I'll go with
Moccona (a competitor), but if I read a medical report finding that
coffee is extremely dangerous, I will drink tea rather than coffee
when the urge hits me. It's not the same thing, but I could bring
myself to settle for tea. That's what a substitute means.
It's more difficult to switch to a substitute than to a
competing product, but it can be done when there are compelling
reasons. Open Source software is a substitute, not a competitor, to
the entire category of proprietary commercial software. It requires
a different mindset and a willingness to work with different
development and support mechanisms. That's what makes its uptake
less than straightforward.
With both substitutes and competitors, "good enough" is a great
reason to switch when the price is far lower, and that is what Open
Source offers. But with substitutes, there is an extra mental
adjustment process that consumers need to go through before full
acceptance happens. That takes time. Consumers need time to gain
confidence from the positive examples of early adopters. The
current situation with Open Source in the marketplace reflects
exactly this stage of the proceedings. Potential savings and a
greater degree of control over one's destiny are the compelling
arguments that will encourage the switch. When the mental
adjustment process is complete, the downfall of proprietary
software could be swift (put options on Oracle, anyone?).
"Open Source may release value, but it doesn't create
New thinking among financial analysts has discovered that most
firms reporting improved earnings year after year are doing so by
cutting costs rather than by increasing revenue. By reducing waste
and improving productivity, companies are "releasing" value that
was hitherto "locked up" in inefficient processes. But they aren't
creating new value. They're not innovating. True wealth comes from
new ideas, and there don't seem to be too many of them. So there
are natural limits to how far these companies can go before they
hit a plateau.
Isn't Open Source something similar? Sure, it'll help us reduce
costs, but is it helping us create anything? It's nothing
more than a cheaper substitute for our existing software, so its
long-term impact will probably be marginal, not revolutionary.
Well asked, and therein lies the difference between a market and
a community. To play in a market, you need to have money. That
automatically excludes all the people who can't pay. It's a shame
that in a world of over 6 billion people, about half are just
bystanders watching the global marketplace in action. There are
brains ticking away in that half-world of market outcasts that
could contribute to making the world better in a myriad little ways
that we fortunate few don't bother to think about. There are
problems to be solved, living standards to be raised, yes, value to
be created, and the "market" isn't doing it fast enough.
God, Government, Market and Community
There are millions who have been waiting for generations for
their lot to improve. Religion has promised them a better
afterlife, but no god has seen fit to improve their present one. In
a world where socialism has been humiliatingly defeated,
governments seem ashamed to spend money on development. Everyone
now seems to believe that governments must be self-effacingly
small. The market is now the politically correct way to solve all
problems. But the market, as we have seen, doesn't recognise the
existence of those who have nothing to offer as suppliers and
nothing to pay as consumers. They are invisible people.
Therefore it falls to the miserable to improve their lot
themselves. Given the tools, they can raise themselves out of their
situation. They will then enter the market, which will
wholeheartedly welcome them (though it hadn't the foresight to help
them enter it in the first place).
Where will such tools come from? In a world where intellectual
property has such vociferous defenders that people must be forced
to pay for software, information technology widens the gap between
the haves and the have-nots, a phenomenon known as the digital
divide. If producers of software deserve to be paid, then that
means hundreds of thousands of people will never have access to
that software. That's a fair market, but a lousy community.
Open Source is doing what god, government and market have failed
to do. It is putting powerful technology within the reach of
cash-poor but idea-rich people. Analysts could quibble about
whether that is creating or merely releasing value, but we could do
with a bit of either.
And yes, that is revolutionary.
Is it possible to make money off Open Source? In the light of
all that we have discussed, this now seems a rather petty and
inconsequential question to ask. There is great wealth
that will be created through Open Source in the coming months and
years, and very little of that will have anything to do with money.
A lot of it will have to do with people being empowered to help
themselves and raise their living standards. No saint, statesman or
scholar has ever done this for them, and certainly no merchant. If
this increase in the overall size of the economic pie results in
proportionately more wealth for all, then that's the grand answer
to our petty question.
Economics is all about human achievement. It wasn't aliens from
outer space who raised us from our caves to where we are today. It
was the way we organised ourselves to create our wealth, rather
like the donkey with a carrot dangling before it that pulls a cart
a great distance. Open Source gives means to human aspiration. It
breaks the artificial mercantilist limits of yesterday's software
market and unleashes potentially limitless growth.
When the dust settles, and even the greatest industrial
creations of today stand dwarfed by the scale of development that
Open Source will bring in its wake, the world will have learnt a
thing or two about economics.
- "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond ( http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar)
- "The Magic Cauldron" by Eric S. Raymond ( http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/magic-cauldron)
- "A-Level Economics" by Ray Powell, Letts Educational
- "The Real Meaning of Money" by Dorothy Rowe, Harper-Collins,
About the Author
Ganesh Prasad has been a Linux user since 1996, and his major
fascination with Open Source has been its social and economic
impact, though the technical side has its appeal, too. He has been
troubled by much of the pseudo-economic bunkum around Open Source,
and has decided to shine the brilliant light of his logic to cut
through the clutter, making up for lack of rigour with stabs of
Copyright (c) 2001 Ganesh Prasad.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no
A copy of the license is at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.